Illustrators Duel it out in Norwich: Central East SCBWI Day!

Benjamin Scott
Writers and Illustrators took over the Norwich and Norfolk Millennium Library for a day to celebrate the opening of the SCBWI BI Illustrator Exhibition in Norwich, organised by Central East Network Coordinator John Shelley. On Saturday 27th July, with the Pride Weekend in full swing outside, 5 illustrators and 4 authors flew the flag for SCBWI British Isles and the Central East Network with sessions aimed at a range of audiences, from children to adults.

Norwich got its first taste of sketch-duelling with two quick-draw matches. Paeony Lewis gave the audience a sneak preview of a work-in-progress picture book, while John Shelley and Mike Brownlow sketched against the clock to illustrate the story. Despite their protests about struggling to draw horses, they created a series of entertaining and expressive spreads of father’s struggle to bring the perfect gift to his daughter. 

First Sketch Duel: John versus....

Later in the day, Annie Neild took us into the world of a young panda trying to find his special talent in her picture book work-in-progress with three illustrators (Bridget Strevens, Mike Brownlow and John Shelley) bringing it to life before our eyes. It was revealing how hearing the book aloud and seeing the illustrators tackle the texts gave both the authors and the audience a new perspective on their work. Both Annie and Paeony talked about what they might change from their experience. 

Second Sketch Duel with Mike, Annie, John and Bridget

Although we were hoping for more children to attend the event, there was plenty to keep the curious adults who had come along. John Shelley talked about his career in Japan and the processes involved in researching and creating his forthcoming non-fiction picture book, Stone Giant - Michelangelo's David and how he came to be

John with proofs of his new book

Benjamin Scott shared his involvement in space based adventures as a ghostwriter for the Star Fighters series with a talk about book packaging, school visits and an interactive space-based quiz with tasty prizes at the end!

Benjamin tackling alien monsters!

Bridget Strevens-Marzo revealed how she brought pre-schoolers into the world of her book Mini-Racer using cut-outs and a clever road tape, and discussed how each illustrator has their own unique voice. 

Bridget and Mini-Racer

Mike Brownlow shared the journey of how Little Robots was developed and became a popular children’s television programme – he also treated the audience to a reading from his new picture book, Ten Little Pirates

Mike Brownlow

YA wasn’t forgotten as Alex Ivey read a gripping extract from her current WIP, sharing teenage girls first visit to an old people’s home.  

Alex Ivey

There were plenty of hands-on workshops for the artistically inclined with Julia Groves taking participants through her journey as an artist to find her voice in her work. Emma Graham led a group to discover their character designs.

Emma's character workshop

Throughout the day, there was a book stand offering work from all the participating members, including books, postcards and prints – with special thanks to Paeony’s daughter who helped out! 

Paeony at the book table, with part of the Illustrator's show behind

Everyone who attended had a great time, especially experience a blend of disciplines, as one of the audience remarked, “I am mostly interested in writing but it was very interesting seeing the illustrators at work. I feel so privileged to be given the opportunity to attend events such as this.”

With lots of positive feedback, John Shelley is determined to hold more events in Norwich soon, as well as support other members in the Central East network to do more on their doorstep. John wanted to thank everyone for taking part and helping with the event and the fabulous display cases – and everyone who took part wanted to thank John for all the effort in making such a great day in Norwich!

Benjamin Scott is a writer and a former SCBWI-BI Assistant Regional Advisor. He loves talking to audiences of all ages about writing, reading and books. 


  1. That sounds like a fantastic day. Loved the photos, too.

  2. A great write-up of a fantastic day! Thanks, Benjamin! I had a lot of fun and it was a real learning experience - looking forward to our next Norwich event.

  3. Sketch duelling is such a brilliant idea. Thank you for the write up Benjamin and the great action shots!


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